Characteristics of a Good Board Member

  • A good board member is a team player who contributes to the mission of the organization and doesn't need to be a star. He or she is also a futuristic thinker.

  • Attitude is equally important to background, expertise, organizational acumen or education. Attitudes that lead to success as volunteer board members are based upon awareness of the importance of cooperation and the need to set goals for the organization.

  • Individual board members speak when there is something relevant to say. Individual board members may also unite opposing sides of an issue through negotiation.

  • Individual board members help other board members stick to the issues at hand and do not personalize debate. An ability to work comfortably within a conflict rather than be intimidated or angered by it helps other board members reach solutions.

  • Cooperation is a characteristic of a good board member, not only on issues of personal interest but also those of interest to colleagues in the field and in related fields.

  • Members who are elected to the board may be perceived by those who vote for them as representing one segment of the profession, one setting, one geographical area, or some other fragment of the whole. Once on the board, however, the strongest and most effective members recognize that their constituency is the entire membership.

  • The strongest board members quickly understand that the association's agenda and the board's agenda have to be paramount over their own agendas.

  • An effective board member needs to understand the politics of the organization and of the board itself, including how to obtain support from other board members and how and when to give support.

  • Laudatory projects and ideas are often defeated or die because their sponsors are not politically astute and do not gain support from colleagues and staff. In some cases, defeat comes because colleagues become too alienated to work together. When this happens, the board loses, the organization and its members lose, and the staff lose.